My Name is Rodolfo and I have been a sales and marketing manager at an international company for the last five years. At this point in my life I have no problems speaking and writing in English with our clients, but years ago it was a struggle that I thought I would never surmount.
One day I met a woman from Canada named Bess who spoke six languages – and all of them fluently! I was impressed and daunted, but I overcame my fears and asked her in my broken English how she had accomplished such a feat. She smiled and said, "by doing what you're doing right now. I got out there and spoke each language." We went for coffee - which, admittedly, had been one of the reasons I approached her in the first place - and she gave me a few tips on how to learn English that really work.
Jump in feet first
My first problem was that I was afraid to use my language skills outside of my language course. I didn't think I had a high enough level of English to use in my daily life. But Bess told me to dive in! By leaving my comfort zone, my skills improved significantly because I actually put them to use. It was the only way I could improve them.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes
I now realise that, like any new skill, if you are learning a language then of course you are going to make mistakes at first! If you don't make mistakes you will never learn what they are and will never be able to speak with confidence.
Learn vocabulary that is relevant
Bess suggested I concentrated on marketing vocabulary so I can now express my ideas and opinions clearly and precisely. But it hasn't stop there. I enjoy cooking, so I focused on words relevant to the culinary arts. Before long it was easy to talk about what was going on in the kitchen. I find the topic to be a great conversation starter - both for personal and professional life.
Watch movies without subtitles
Subtitles can be a big help, but forcing myself to really listen to the dialogue vastly improved my ability to understand and use vocabulary.
Sing out loud
I have a horrible voice. But singing along with my favourite songs helped me gain a better grasp of English pronunciation. With no one around to listen, who cares if my pitch is bad!